'Rampage,' a gritty witty Rambo rip-off from Turkey

The 1986 reggae oddity ‘Call Me Rambo’ is full of dubby percussion and the sounds of automatic weapon fire and features a vocalist, Ackie, who hums, mumbles, and croons about “The F.B.I. and the K.G.B.” and lyrically reframes the character made famous by Sylvester Stallone into a criminalistic authority-bucking “ragamuffin.” It is not so much a cheap cash-in on the success of Rambo as it is an unofficial addition to its mythology worth seeking out. About the only thing that compares to this odd piece of Rambo-riffing is “Rampage” (or “Korkusuz” as it was titled in Turkey), an on-the-cheap knockoff of 1985’s “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” that ends up as something very, very special thanks to sheer weirdness and dedication to delivering action—criminally low budget, chintzy effects, and waning actor enthusiasm be damned.

Contextualized in the States as “the Turkish Rambo,” the 1986 movie retains the basic elements of “Rambo: First Blood Part II’s” plot (Serdar Kebapçilar as Serdar is our Rambo stand-in and he’s buff, wears a headband, is imprisoned, fights lots of guys, and wields a rocket launcher), though what you’re watching is a kind of cinematic cosplay, powered by the peculiar, desperate creativity one drums up when one’s options are extremely limited. And still, the action in “Rampage” is brisk and kinetic and pretty much never stops and it’s full of funny, strange little things, like the characters locating more ammo in hiding places outside, as if it’s a Nintendo game, which is the sort of thing that trash cinema’s other-ing, condescension crew who’ve made this movie a thing to laugh at rather than with just love to mention. Never mind that this witty absurdity is clearly intentional and part of the movie’s anarchic charm. But there’s also grit and grime and naturalism to “Rampage,” the byproduct of having barely any budget, which gives it a kind of late Sam Peckinpah quality—sweaty, mostly out-of-shape men running around in the outdoors or in dilapidated buildings desperately firing weapons at each other for about an hour and a half.

Thanks to its cheapness and sincerity, “Rampage” recalls 1980’s “First Blood” as much as “First Blood Pt. II.” The latter is an explosion fest that pimps the nonsense that there are hundreds of P.O.W.S. left in Vietnam that the liberals running the country are too chickenshit to go get, whereas the former is a punk-as-fuck anti-authority flick in which a Vietnam vet can’t re-adjust to society and gets harassed for his long hair and implicitly, because he reminds everybody of the war they forgot or ignored and after being illegally arrested and brutalized, sends a whole small town’s police force into the woods after him where he steadily picks them off, and then when he is cornered, breaks down into a Brando-esque mumbling monologue about the incomprehensiblity of war. “Rampage,” then, ends up as some untidy hybrid of the two. Big Hollywood bluster bumping into a low-stakes ’70s character study done on the cheap, misremembered and messy and all the more interesting for it.

“Rampage,” directed by Cetin Inanc, plays at the Windup Space on July 2.

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